Christmas retailers seeing fewer customers but they are spending more
In the lead up to what’s looking to be a COVID-free Christmas, Tasmanians are spending big.
Retailers are reporting Christmas shopping numbers on par or down on last year, but those buying in-store and online are spending more.
It’s just one of the changes in customer spending patterns being reported in the post-pandemic retail environment.
Shoppers have kept up online habits from the lockdown period and are preferring local products and vouchers for presents.
Christmas shopping is an activity loved by some, and a last minute rush for others.
Spending figures will not be in for some time but some retailers are reporting good turnout and turnover.
Despite a lack of cruise ships and international visitors, retailers say turnover is on a par with last year.
Kellie Rathbone who owns a Hobart gift and toy store said that after a tough year, Tasmanians were feeling confident about being out and about.
“With no cruise ships and no international tourists this year, we are seeing a lot of local people [from Hobart] but we also getting a lot of intrastate travel and a lot of interstate travel,” she said.
“We’ve definitely noticed that people are feeling confident, with our borders shut for so long and our COVID-19 response has been fantastic in the state, people are confident to be out and about shopping.
“The last four weeks we have had fewer customers coming into our shop but the customers that are coming in are spending more.”
Ms Rathbone said the Christmas spirit was alive and well.
“People this year seem to want Christmas to be an extra special one, it’s been a really tough year for everyone,” she said.
“People have missed family, they have missed their friends, they haven’t been able to do the things they normally do, so they want to enjoy Christmas together with their friends and family.”
Tasmanians buying local
Retailers say Tasmanians are seeing the value in shopping locally.
Launceston shop owner Lindi McMahon said people were looking to support local businesses.
“I think after the pandemic and people having to close their doors, people have made a really conscious decision that they want to shop local and help our little businesses survive,” she said.
“People are just realising that by shopping local and supporting local that it can make a real difference in their communities.”
She has also seen a pattern of early shopping.
“People were thinking they were not able to travel so were keen to shop locally and post their presents,” she said.
Earlier start to festive shopping
Small Business Council’s Rob Mallett said compared to last year, the Christmas shopping period had been quite buoyant and had started earlier than normal.
“Traditionally the Christmas trade doesn’t really hot up until those last two weeks, but I think we’ve been finding since mid-November at least, business has been brisk and retailers have had queues at their tills,” he said.
“I think a lot of people are spending a little bit more than they may have done, [although it’s] interesting that some surveys are suggesting they might not, but it’s been very buoyant.
“The online trade has been particularly successful, [including] people buying from Tasmanian retailers online.”
Mr Mallett said people were buying “experiences” for gifts.
“[They’re buying] restaurant vouchers, those sorts of things, people are buying really nice experiences for friends and family,” he said.
He said he expected the post-Christmas sales to continue the trend, helping bolster confidence for 2021.
“The more money we can keep in Tasmania sloshing around with Tasmanians, the better off we will all be,” he said.
Online shopping habit hard to break
While people have the confidence to get out and about, there are some habits from the lockdown shoppers are still holding onto.
This week’s Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show a third of people prefer online shopping, more than before the pandemic.
Ms Rathbone said her shop’s online trade was still healthy.
“People became used to buying online through the COVID lockdown,” she said.
“Online hit a peak in COVID … and we are still seeing more compared to last Christmas.”
The lockdown has continued to influence the big sellers this Christmas.
“The biggest trends are for planters for plants, and jigsaw puzzles,” Ms Rathbone said.
“People are still inside and have spent a lot of time inside over the past nine months or so.”
One young shopper in her store had her mind set on another choice this Christmas.
“I’m usually looking at nice squishy, fluffy things, because I like squishing and playing with things,” she said.